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" A book isn't noise to drown out other noise. "
" I once belonged to a health club, where it cost me £2,000 a year to amble on a treadmill for half an hour a week and sit and read Grazia in the cooling-off area. "
" Sentimentality works by our seeing only what we want to see. "
" Things go bad after a divorce and often stay that way. It is rare for the parties to return placidly to a time before they met. A bitterness lingers on. Those who call this our Independence Day, fantasising of returning to a never-never time before they married, when they were free, easy, single, and master of their fate, are delusional. "
" Failing to see the point is not a virtue. "
" When I first went to Israel, I saw soldiers pushing Palestinians around and thought, 'I can't stand this'. Then I'd meet somebody in a bar saying what wonderful people the Palestinians are and what mamzers the Jews are, and I'd think, 'Hang on'. It should be hard to make up your mind on any serious subject. "
" With 'J', at a deep base level, there is still some comedy, but that masculinist voice that had driven so many of my novels I suddenly did not want to occupy. I wasn't reneging on it; I just didn't want to do it. "
" There was no question of ever sending us to Jewish schools... They wanted us out there. They wanted us to be lawyers and doctors. They wanted us out of the religious thing, apart from that ethnic bonding. "
" When I was teaching at Cambridge, I sold handbags on the market. "
" I never believe any politician talking about popular culture. "
" It is against the spirit of our non-discriminating times to openly prefer one sort of music to another, so let's just say that hearing grand orchestral music in a public place is exhilarating in a way that hearing popular music never can be, if only because, in a popular music age, a full orchestra is less familiar to our ears. "
" Once in a while, we need the hard Left to pipe up. "
" Of my old tendency to overdo the dedication and deface the title page with florid compliments and obscure quotes which the recipient cannot read, I will say only that I learnt my lesson when I had to shell out with my own money for a hardback I'd vandalised and now limit myself to 'Good wishes.' "
" To my ear, the term 'comic novelist' is as redundant and off-putting as the term 'literary novelist'. "
" I was a 'reverence for life' man - 'see life steadily and see it whole' - in my days as a lecturer in English lit. We are, I argued, if not exactly 'saved' by reading, at least partially 'repaired' by it: made the better morally and existentially. "
" Our connection to the great myths of our natures is murky. A mother might see the Medea in herself without imagining she will ever do away with her children. "
" If we doubt the power of literature and art to civilise, how come no one has ever been mugged by a person carrying a well-thumbed copy of 'Middlemarch' in his back pocket? "
" Don't imagine that a word you say is going to make a blind bit of difference. "
" Reading literature remains a civilising activity, no matter that it's literature in which people do and say abominable things and the author curses like the very devil. What's at issue is how we describe the way the civilising works. "
" I think one of the main reasons I write is to do better than ranting. The ranting is the opinion, and the writing is not the opinion. I always say that people's opinions are the worst things about them. The words demand a dignity. "
" The day I don't attend to my nostrils is the day I will have forsworn that world and become a different person. Someone otherwise preoccupied. Someone who couldn't care less what anyone thinks of his appearance - someone for whom the material life has lost its appeal. "
" Show me a university which is a hotbed of thin-skinned offence-taking, where every unacceptable idea is policed and every person who happens to hold one is hounded out of a job, and I will show you a university that isn't a university but an ideological prison camp and indoctrination centre. "
" There's a lot to be said for misanthropy. "
" I was young; I was newly married. My Cambridge degree was still warm in my pocket - a roll of parchment guaranteeing me, I thought, a sort of free ambassadorial passage to any campus of my choosing, and I had chosen Sydney - the world was all before me. "
" There's a simple arithmetical logic at work. Build more unaffordable and not always architecturally sympathetic apartments, watch the rents rise, the tarts leave, the small shops, production offices and design studios close down, and hey presto, we have another fashionable London suburb indistinguishable from the rest. "
" I've never owned a T-shirt. I don't like vests or sweaters or cardies with zips. I like a proper shirt with a collar. There's nothing else that I think I look nice in. I don't think there's anything else that other men look nice in, to be honest. Things with words on! Can you imagine? On grown-ups! Words are to make books with. "
" You fall in love differently when you are young and far from home in a seductive place. You fall in love with the very air you breathe, and the vivid colours and the unbearably sweet sensation of distance and unaccustomedness. "
" You cannot exercise and be amused about it. You cannot integrate the dying bug into your core workout and hold to the position that you are a spiritual being. In this way, the body and the mind are each other's opposite unto death, which is why you have to choose which of them you are going to follow. "
" A healthy culture doesn't memorialise only those it agrees with. "
" The magic word 'Shakespeare' always freezes you in your chair. "
" Where there are no spectators, there is no sponsorship. Where there is no sponsorship, there is no money. Where there is no money, there are no officials with fingers in the pot. The lesson to be learnt from this is simple. If we want honest sport, we have to stop watching it. "